Case Studies

Thorpe Design Inc.

Full-service contractors providing design and installation of fire sprinkler systems in California

Founded in 1986 by Jerry Thorpe, Thorpe Design Inc. (TDI) began exclusively as a fire sprinkler engineering company, supplying design solutions to sprinkler companies throughout central California. In 1989 the company became incorporated and Thorpe’s son Jim took ownership of the company and shifted the focus to become a design-install firm. Since then, TDI has become a leader in the industry of design and installation of fire sprinkler systems.

TDI designs and installs sprinkler systems in all types of buildings. “We primarily do multifamily and tract homes,” says vice president Patrick Hulleman. “We also work with custom homes, service and inspection, and we design-install for the commercial sector as well.”

Headquartered in Brentwood, California, with a satellite office in Atascadero, TDI employs a staff ranging from 100 to 140 employees, depending on the season. The company is structured with four specialized construction managers that provide individualized care through fully staffed departments. The installation department of TDI is complimented by the company’s in-house professional engineering staff.

TDI is capable of keeping its employees busy as the company self-performs 90 percent of its work. “Once in a while we’ll hire someone to operate a backhoe for us but usually we do not sub anything out,” says Hulleman.

An integrated approach

In past three years, TDI has integrated into multiunit apartment complexes. “We’ve worked in complexes with up to 300 units,” explains Hulleman. “These types of projects can be fun because of their size and they can be fairly delicate depending on how you handle them.”

Hulleman notes that on a job of this size it may take up to eight months for TDI to complete its portion of the project. “We’re on and off the project throughout those eight months,” says Hulleman. The safety record that TDI has maintained proves that the company takes every step necessary to successfully complete each project. “We are able to be on the project while construction is taking place and without disrupting any other contractors.” The reputation that TDI has established with providers and subcontractors has also led to the company’s longevity. TDI guarantees and stands behind all of its work.

Thriving through tough times

While most of the construction industry suffered the repercussions of the recession from 2008 and on, TDI has been fortunate and has managed to grow throughout the economic downturn. A major factor in the company’s success is the demand for fire sprinkler systems since the enforcement of the 2010 California Building Standards Codes (CBSC). With an effective date of Jan. 1, 2011, the CBSC required that all new-construction buildings be equipped with fire sprinkler systems. “There are a few other states that are going this route as well,” says Hulleman. “California has definitely been the lead state for this type of issue.”

“It didn’t affect us too much at the beginning because the construction industry was still pretty slow,” Hulleman explains. “Over the next few years, the builders began picking up their production and the biggest challenge for us was to keep up with the demand.” As a result, TDI has grown exponentially in the past two years.

Benefits of a family-owned and operated business

As vice president of TDI, Hulleman enjoys all aspects of working with a family-owned business. “I really feel that we are able to do things for our employees that bigger corporations would not do,” Hulleman. “A lot of us here have become family and friends so we like to bless our employees just as we have been blessed. Working in a positive environment is very important to me. When I come to work and see that all of our employees are happy and positive and want to be here that make me very happy.”

For the near future, Hulleman sees more of the same for TDI. The company will continue on the path that has proven to be successful for almost 30 years. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and keep taking care of our clients,” says Hulleman. “We plan to keep growing with our clients as well as our employees. We will always continue to operate with the utmost integrity because our reputation it is very important to maintain our great reputation.”

From maintaining long-term relationships within the industry to establishing new customers, Thorpe Design Inc. has built a well-respected record for performance driven solutions built on a strong family foundation.

Published on: July 24, 2015


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